The American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP) urges the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to finalize its proposed rule to ban non-compete clauses in employment contracts. In a letter to the Commission, ACEP unequivocally supports a ban on these predatory clauses which can limit the ability of emergency physicians to practice medicine in their communities and hinder their ability to effectively advocate for their patients.
“Emergency physicians should not be subject to harmful non-compete agreements,” said Christopher S. Kang, MD, FACEP, president of ACEP. “Restricting an emergency physician’s ability to choose a job can stall or upend their career, contribute to workplace dissatisfaction, and accelerate currently high rates of burnout, especially in rural or underserved communities where it is already challenging to attract and retain physicians.”
ACEP strongly agrees with the FTC that non-compete clauses are unfair, exploitative, and coercive because they can restrict emergency physician autonomy and limit otherwise viable employment options. Finalizing this regulation as proposed would help address the current anti-competitive conditions faced by many emergency physicians amidst growing health care consolidation.
ACEP asked its members for anonymous feedback about their experiences with non-compete agreements and included many of the responses in its letter to the FTC. Among 75 emergency physician respondents, 90% said non-compete clauses make it harder for emergency physicians to switch employers, and more than half (59%) said they would seek a different job locally if they were not subject to the clause.
Non-compete clauses prevent opportunities to expand critical skills and experience, exacerbate rural and underserved areas’ workforce shortages and prevent emergency physicians from working simultaneously at multiple facilities, which can suppress wages. Further, geographic restrictions in these clauses can upset personal and professional lives and put undue strain on physicians’ families.
Among emergency physicians who responded to ACEP as an employer that uses non-compete clauses, nearly eight in 10 (79%) said that a categorical ban would either have a positive or minimal impact on their group. Only 10% indicated that a ban would negatively impact their group.
ACEP is concerned that exempting non-profit health systems from the ban would create an unlevel playing field with the potential for unintended consequences and requests that the Commission explores these ramifications, providing additional guidance where possible. ACEP is hopeful that the FTC also monitors the effect a ban could have on the ability of rural and underserved areas to recruit and maintain a stable workforce.
“Coming on the heels of selfless service throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the use of non-compete clauses in emergency medicine is damaging to emergency physicians and impacts their ability to best serve the patients in their communities,” said Dr. Kang. “Finalizing this ban would be a fundamental step that can empower emergency physicians to take more control over their careers.”